Just click your fingers

17 Jan

On 19 July 2021 I wrote

I’ll come back to the flower and pick out some details, but for now I’m done with pink, so it’s back to the stem and frondy leaves.

The pendant was Mum’s (of course) and I remember as a child thinking how glamorous she seemed when she put it on. Mum has never been someone who cares much about fashion and she never wore make up, except perhaps a smudge of matt pink lipstick sometimes, so glamorous wasn’t a word I often associated with her.

Mum has given me lots of her jewellery over the years, and gave me this pendant when I came to mind her back at the beginning of this year.

Then a couple of months ago I found her one day distressed and trying to remove her wedding rings (dad gave her a second gold band for their golden wedding). She couldn’t explain why but she no longer wanted to wear them, she wanted me to look after them. I did, but made a deal with her that all she needed do was click her fingers if she wanted them back.

A couple of weeks later she clicked her fingers and she wore them again. Until she broke her wrist and the quick thinking nurse removed her rings before her hands and fingers blew up like balloons overnight.

I’ve been wearing her wedding band now for the last 5 weeks, but Mum still knows she can click her fingers if she wants it back. It’s hers.

And now, 18 months after first writing those words about Mum’s wedding rings, I wear her ring all the time. Initially it felt odd to wear a gold band, on my wedding ring finger. I have never been married, so in my late 50s I had never worn such a significant gold band. I was constantly aware of it. Shortly after I started wearing it I also took to wearing a ring Mum had given me several Christmasses ago (it was simply attached to a ribbon and hung on the tree, for me to find). It had been Granbunny’s ring, and it fitted the same finger and, being a ring with a large cut topaz surrounded by seed pearls, it hid the simple gold band. I felt like the gold wedding band was my secret. It was also symbolic of the strong bond I had with Mum. And of our separation. It was a constant reminder to me (though none was needed) that she was now so very different to the Mum I’d known all my life. And also a reminder that some day, she would no longer be with us.

I also regularly wear a modern amethyst and silver ring which Mum used to wear often – I’ll never know for sure now, but I think perhaps Dad bought it for her on a trip they made to Orkney in the 90s. Again, Mum had given this to me a few years ago. The other ring I now put on every day is a simple limpet shell, picked from Carrick Shore – it feels soothing to carry this bit of the shore with me all the time; despite the slight discomfort when I first started wearing it!

I haven’t taken Mum’s wedding ring off for more than a few minutes at a time since that day she went into hospital. And each of those few minutes have been at her behest. Initially she thought she might wear it again, and she would tentatively try it on; she would also try on Granbunny’s ring… but always, always she would give both rings back to me, saying I should keep them safe.

Latterly, she talked of another woman who ‘lives here and sometimes comes to see me’ who had a ring like Granbunny’s ‘but not as special’… and Mum was somehow worried that this woman might get confused and believe that Granbunny’s ring was actually hers, or that both rings might get stolen or lost. I continued to assure Mum that I kept all her things safe. But, as ever, if she wanted anything back all she had to do was click her fingers.

In the months after Mum went to live in Fleet Valley we would occasionally take her out bundled up in a wheelchair, for a short walk in the fresh air, and then for ‘soup and a sandwich’ for lunch; or if it was still too early for lunch, then for a hot chocolate. Mum loved a hot chocolate. The first time we went out, she seemed so diminished, and almost frightened of her surroundings, and she probably was. By this time she had been institutionalised for some months, her dementia meant that she found it difficult to process anything new or unfamiliar and this was far out of her recent experience of life. Her hot chocolate arrived in an enormous cup and saucer and Mum just stared at it. We all wondered if she would be able to lift it to her mouth, and at what point we help her. Mum picked up the teaspoon, and delicately started to spoon off the froth on top of the hot chocolate, licking her lips with delight at the sweet taste. In that moment I realised that whenever I buy a hot drink with any froth on top, the first thing I do is spoon off the froth and eat it… I hadn’t known until this moment that I was just copying Mum.

Out for a hot chocolate with Mum, and she clicks her fingers to get her rings back!

There was one day, when we were having this conversation, and Mum realised that she could no longer click her fingers – this mattered not, she knew that I would honour my promise and that I was just looking after things on her behalf.

And truly, this is how I’ve felt about so much this last year. As though I am just holding on to Mum’s most loved things on her behalf. And in that list of most loved things, I include myself and my siblings.


Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking or baking, perhaps making use of the short Seville oranges season to make some delicious marmalade then you could check out my recipes here. This blog started out as recipes, sometimes accompanied by wee stories, so I’ve got a back catalogue of tasty things to make. Do let me know if you’d like me to add more recipes in the future – I had an ambition to make a carers cookbook a couple of years ago… perhaps some day.

3 Responses to “Just click your fingers”

  1. Neil January 17, 2023 at 10:42 pm #

    This one is so well written.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Taking Smock of the Situation | Shewolfinthevalley - January 23, 2023

    […] Just click your fingers […]


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